Commuters and travellers are being asked to trust their instincts and look out for fellow passengers who might need emotional support.
A new suicide prevention campaign called Small Talk Saves Lives aims to give members of the public the confidence to act if they notice someone who may be at risk of suicide on or around the rail network.
Launched by the Samaritans, British Transport Police (BTP), various train operating companies and the rail industry, the campaign hopes to save many lives a year.
By highlighting that suicidal thoughts can be temporary and interrupted with something as simple as a question, the campaign aims to give the public the tools to spot a potentially vulnerable person, start a conversation with them and perhaps save a life.
Small Talk Saves Lives was developed after research showed that passengers have a key role in suicide prevention and further insights which revealed the majority are willing to act, but wanted guidance on how to help and reassurance they wouldn’t “make things worse”.
The campaign also draws on the successful interventions made by some of the 16,000 rail staff and BTP officers who have been trained by Samaritans in suicide prevention. Statistics show that for each life lost on the railway, six are saved.
Small Talk Saves Lives encourages passengers to take notice of what may be warning signs a person is at risk – for instance, if they are standing alone and isolated, looking distant or withdrawn, staying on a platform for a long time without boarding a train or generally displaying something out of the ordinary in their behaviour or appearance.
- Between April 2016 and March 2017, 1,593 interventions were made across Britain’s rail network by staff, British Transport Police, local police and the public - a 40% increase on the previous year.
- In the same period, suicides and suspected suicides on the rail network dropped from 253 to 237.
- There is a suicide on the railway once every 36 hours or so.
There is no single sign or combination of behaviours that mean a person is suicidal, but if something doesn’t feel right, the message is to act, with emphasis on responding in ways people feel comfortable and safe with.
Courses of action differ depending on the situation and the response can vary from approaching the person and asking them a question to distract them from their thoughts, to alerting a member of rail staff or calling the police.
Sarah Wilson* had planned to take her life on the railway, but didn’t after someone reached out to her.
The 28-year-old said: “Someone showing me they cared about me helped to interrupt my suicidal thoughts and that gave them time to subside. The more that people understand that suicide is preventable, the better. I hope people will share the video and that the campaign will encourage people to trust their gut instincts and start a conversation if they think someone could need help. You won’t make things worse and you could save a life.”
“You won’t make things worse and you could save a life.”
Professor Rory O’Connor, a leading suicide prevention expert from the University of Glasgow, said of the campaign: “It aims to tackle one of the myths around suicide and its prevention: namely, that there is nothing we can do to prevent suicide. There is, and we all have a role to play. It is great to see this campaign encouraging people to reach out if they think someone might be suicidal. It could save lives.”
*Not her real name.
Useful websites and helplines:
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.
You can call Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41.
Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070.